Synaesthesia / 1: The Orange Smell of November
Barbara Ryan
Annette Stahmer

Opening: 26 October, 2012, 8PM
Exhibition runs: 27 October – 16 December, 2012
Open: Fri-Sun, 2-6 PM and by appointment; open on 30 November until 10 PM

28 October, 2012, 4PM - Artist talk and workshop with Barbara Ryan

16 December, 2012, 3PM Artist talk with Annette Stahmer
from 4.30 PM Finnisage

As part of the new series Synaesthesia, Art Laboratory Berlin presents the first exhibition The Orange Smell of November with new works by Barbara Ryan and Annette Stahmer.

The term "synaesthesia", from the Greek "aisthesis" ("sensation", "sensory impression") and "syn" ("together") meaning the experience of two or more sensory impressions at the same time, is both an artistic paradigm and neurological phenomena. It has been prominent in the melding of the arts from the Renaissance masque through Romanticism and Symbolism, and played a major role in the 20th century avant-garde. This phenomenon of synaesthetic perception can be mirrored in the multimediality of our technological age. This interdisciplinarity of the senses led Art Laboratory Berlin to search for artists who either use synaesthesia as a basis for their work, or who incorporate their own synaesthesia in their art.

The artist Barbara Ryan’s perceptions of the world are underpinned by her polymodal synaesthesia which in turn forms the foundation of her artistic work. She experiences her synaesthesia »as something that is in her parallel conscious – as opposed to something that is in the subconscious, creating a duality of vision«. Her installation That can’t be September – it smells like the August of 1985! combines in a unique way the artist’s intimate personal relationship between scent, colour, time and space, played out within the city of Berlin, where she lived in the 1990s.

The installation is a coded re-creation of her sense of space and time as imbued with colour and odour. Using text, photography and DIY fragrances she remaps the city according to the systematic guidelines of her own synaesthesia. The viewer is then invited to explore and decode the artist's unique phenomenological structures.

The work of the Berlin typographer and artist Annette Stahmer revolves around language, the relationship between voice and writing, the act of writing, palimpsests and synaesthesia. The two videos in the exhibition - A ist blau and Synästhetische Bilder I - IV - show the artist's mother, a synaesthete who connects vowels with certain colours.

Filmed from above, A ist blau [A Is Blue] shows the artist's mother Eilith le Fort in a sort of laboratory setting, meticulously trying to fix these inner colours on paper while simultaneously describing the connection between the colours and the phonemes. The result is an enchanting translation of subjective perception into acoustic and visual material.

The focus in both videos is on language that, following the internal logic of Eilith's perceptions, serves not only as a description of this phenomena, but becomes in itself a sort of substance, assuming colour and consistency. Therefore it evokes within the listener poetic, almost surreal images.

Curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz

Synaesthesia – a theoretical introduction (.pdf)

Reboot FM - Lautstrom #26 Initiative der Projekträume Berlin (excerpt on Annette Stahmer)


With the generous support of:

Synaesthesia is supported in part by a generous gift from Michael Schröder.

Media partner:


'A ist Blau' by Annette Stahmer

'That can't be the September - it smells like the August of 1985!' by Barbara Ryan

'That can't be the September - it smells like the August of 1985!' by Barbara Ryan


Special thanks to: